January 28, 2013

Ella’s Kitchen

February: The month of hearts. We think of chocolates and chocolate covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day, of cherries and cherry pie for Washington’s birthday, of fish and meatless dinners for the Lenten Season, and of heart healthy and hearty soups for the February chills. On the adjoining page is a delicious hearty soup that came from the kitchen of Generations Agency. The recipes below with the exception of the Pretzel Salad came from the American Heart Association.

[Ella can be contacted at ellaweeza@yahoo.com or Ella – 50+ Lifestyles, 804 W Lombard Street, Davenport, IA, 52804]

Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad

2 Cups crushed pretzels (coarse)
3/4 Cup melted oleo or butter
3 tsp. sugar
1 8 oz. pkg softened cream cheese
1 Cup sugar
1 large container (13 oz.) Cool Whip
1 large (6 oz.) box of strawberry Jell-O
2 Cups boiling water
2 – 10 oz. pkgs. of frozen strawberries, including juice.

Mix first three ingredients and place in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes – DO NOT OVERBAKE. Set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, cream (beat) sugar and cream cheese together. Fold in Cool Whip and mix until smooth. Spread this over cooled pretzel crust.

With the three remaining ingredients, place Jell-O powder in a mixing bowl, pour in hot water and stir until dissolved. Add strawberries, juice and all. Stir. Let stand for a little bit until mixture is no longer hot, approx. 10 minutes. Pour over cream cheese mixture and refrigerate. Cut into squares when ready to serve

Variations: I recently made this with orange Jell-O and two cans of mandarin oranges. I poured some of the orange juice off, but did not drain thoroughly. The juice in the oranges makes up for the other 2 cups of liquid that the Jell-O recipe calls for. I had to let it cool longer since I was using room temperature fruit and not frozen fruit.

Or use lime Jell-O and pineapple tidbits for a St. Paddy’s Day salad.

Any mixture or color scheme of Jell-O and fruit can be used.

Mango-Yogurt Dipping Sauce

1 medium mango, cut into large cubes
1/2 Cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 TBS. sliced almonds, dry roasted

In a food processor or blender, process all the ingredients except for the almonds for 20 to 30 seconds. Pour into a small serving bowl. Just before serving, sprinkle with the almonds. This is a great dipping sauce for chunks of fresh fruit.

TIP: This sauce is especially good when you use banana chunks as the dippers. If you cut the bananas much before serving them, sprinkle some lemon juice on them to keep the bananas from turning brown. You can make the sauce up to five days in advance. Cover and refrigerate it without the almonds, sprinkling them on top just before serving. Serves 4 or 5 at about 1/4 Cup per serving.


Chicken and Quinoa Soup

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, all visible fat to be discarded,
cut into 1-inch cubes
4 Cups fat-free low-sodium chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped
3/4 Cup water
1 medium carrot, sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS. chopped fresh thyme
1 medium dried bay leaf
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/3 Cup quinoa, rinsed well under cold running water, and drained.
2 Cups sugar snap peas, (sometimes called snow peas in pod) trimmed and sliced diagonally.

In a large saucepan, stir together chicken, broth, onion, water, carrot, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and pepper. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered for 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the quinoa. Cook for five minutes. Stir in peas. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until quinoa is tender and chicken is no longer pink in the center. Discard the bay leaf before serving the soup.

TIP: Quinoa is a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is gluten free and high in calcium. Look for quinoa near the rice and other grains in the super market. Or some stores may have it in the Health food section or with gluten-free products. Unless you buy pre-washed quinoa, rinse it in a fine strainer under cold water until the water runs clear. This is done to remove the bitter coating called saponin.

Serves 6 at 1 1/2 cup per serving